The Rev. John L. McCullough is President and CEO of Church World Service, the global humanitarian agency with programs in development and humanitarian affairs, refugee assistance, and advocacy for social justice. Under his leadership, CWS is known as an innovative and adaptive leader in its programmatic fields, engaged in transformative relationships.
McCullough has been at the forefront of agency efforts to press for Enough for All – the needs of the hungry and the displaced, human rights and the empowerment of civil society. McCullough conceived of and implemented the long-term process of CWS 2020, to embolden the agency in times of sweeping change across international relations, ecumenical and interfaith landscapes, and in the church as it is transformed in the Global North and South.
Finding the bold voice is at the very heart of CWS’s work. Says McCullough, “Whether the challenge is chronic or in crisis, we dedicate ourselves to working with affected people to hear their needs, access the resources necessary to address those needs, and build a foundation for their future.” McCullough has remained outspoken in support of Comprehensive Immigration Reform, DREAMers, and the rights of the displaced.
As architect of the CWS Africa Initiative, he presented to members of the United Nations HABITAT community his vision to guide the establishment of School Safe Zones – secure, stimulating and nurturing environments for youth. The government of Kenya collaborated with CWS on the publication and distribution of a School Safe Zones Manual to extend the reach of the program to schools throughout the country.
McCullough has overseen the agency’s concentration on sustainable access to food and water in the face of climate change. CWS’s Enough for All campaign includes the emphasis on nutrition in addition to food security, especially for children five and under and for mothers, and on the access to water as a human right. McCullough is the Climate Ambassador for the global ACT Alliance, and also gave the keynote address at Liberia’s Consultation on Climate Change, Human Rights, Peace and Security, hosted by the All Africa Conference of Churches and attended the United Nations Climate Summit in Copenhagen.
A graduate of the Boston University School of Theology, McCullough was honored with its Distinguished Alumni award. An ordained minister in The United Methodist Church, he has served pastorates in the United States and Kenya and has held leadership positions at the denomination’s global mission agency before joining CWS in 2000.
McCullough has led delegations to North Korea, Israel/Palestine, Cuba, West Africa, Pakistan, and other multiple locations, giving him an astute point of view in the current complex global climate. These complexities include the Thailand-Burma border, site of a major humanitarian crisis for thousands of displaced people; a precedent-setting delegation to Israel and Palestine of faith leaders representing the historic African American churches; a delegation to North Korea in response to its growing political and humanitarian crisis; to Colombia to investigate the plight of displaced and abused Afro-Colombian people; and to the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Gambia to support peace-building efforts by churches in West Africa’s Mano River Union.
McCullough was the key spokesperson for CWS’s opposition to the U.S. pre-emptive strike against Iraq and against military control of humanitarian response within Iraq – a condition that has effects still today in other areas of conflict and response.
The recipient of numerous awards and honors, McCullough is grateful for his recognition by the “Distinguished Alumnus Award” from Boston University, School of Theology 2003; the “Esther Smith International Mission Award” from the Progressive National Baptist Convention 2004; the “Peace and Justice Award” from Eastern Mennonite University 2005; named as “Outstanding Ecumenist” by the Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church 2012; the “National Humanitarian Award” presented by Blue Wave NJ 2016; and the “Community Service Award” from The Interchurch Center 2017.
McCullough continues to challenge CWS to “dramatically expand its capacity and impact in the fight to end hunger” in this decade through working with “the grassroots – which is precisely what CWS has emphasized throughout its history.”